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Deep Dive with Laura Arnold

Podcast: Democracy in Crisis

Systemic flaws in our electoral systems are helping push people to political extremes. Laura Arnold, co-founder and co-chair of Arnold Ventures, sits down with leading democracy reformer Katherine Gehl to examine the dysfunction in our democracy and identify solutions.

U.S. Capitol
J. David Ake/The Associated Press

In the chaotic aftermath of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol in a failed insurrection attempt and a historic second impeachment of then-President Trump, the newly elected President Biden took to the Capitol steps on Jan. 20 with an inaugural address that sought to bridge the deep and widening divisions in the United States.

He pledged to look beyond parties, to be the president for all people, and to “celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.”

Yet his pleas for “unity”— typical bipartisan bridge building expected from a newly inaugurated president — have landed at a time of deep division, sowing criticism even with some in his own party, who see compromise as capitulation.

Systemic failures in the nation’s electoral and legislative systems have led to extreme polarization and partisan rancor, raising questions about whether American democracy is still working.

Only 17 percent of Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do what is right — an all-time low, according to the Pew Research Center. In a 2019 Bright Line survey, 747 political scientists collectively gave the United States a one-in-six chance of democratic breakdown in the next four years. The experts were nearly unanimous in their assessment that American democracy had declined over the last decade.

Laura Arnold, co-founder and co-chair of Arnold Ventures and host of Deep Dive, recently spoke with Katherine Gehl, founder and chair of the Institute for Political Innovation, to discuss how the very structures of our electoral and legislative systems have widened political divisions, contributing to the moment we find ourselves in.

In this episode, Arnold and Gehl provide expert insights into a number of ways we can repair democracy — changes that, despite their high return on investment, still aren’t receiving the attention they need to gain traction. These fixes include changing the process of legislative rulemaking and establishing ranked choice voting (RCV) and open primaries, solutions that would make our governments more accountable, representative, and transparent.

How to listen

Listen to the podcast in the player above or on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app.

About the host

Laura Arnold is the Co-Founder and Co-Chair of Arnold Ventures, founded in 2010, and an attorney and former oil company executive. Read more about her here.

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

Map of the U.S. made of Arnold Ventures icons